Birds&Bats Wine Productions - Wines of Momentary Destination
Whilst working in Germany on the 2013 wine vintage, Birds&Bats had the opportunity to produce a gin.
Staffelter Hof not only produces wonderful Mosel Riesling, but also a range of stunning spirits and schnapps. All of them are produced from fresh raw ingredients and Gerd Klein is a master distiller in his own right. Smooth clean alcohol, with flavours of cherry, apple, the now legendarily named 'Williams Christ' pear, and even brandies of 30 years old, Gerd creates these spirits with care and dedication.
Two types of spirits can be made using the waste products from wine making. The most common and widely known is known as Tresterbrand in Germany, Marc in France or Grappa in Italy. This spirit is distilled from the the remaining skins and seeds, called pomace. This is fermented and then distilled.
The other spirit is Hefebrand. The remaining wine lees following fermentation and settling is distilled, producing a very neutral spirit (depending on the quality and type of lees, of course) and ideal for imparting flavours into. Especially gin botanicals.
Birds&Bats jumped at the opportunity to be able to produce their own style of gin and got to work on a new and unique recipe.
B+B love the flavours of Asia, so it wasn't too difficult a task to come up with the flavours they wanted. Along with the usual, and not so usual gin botanicals and flavours, it was decided on 4 unique and interesting flavours.
Kaffir Lime Leaves
A fruit native to Indochinese and Malaysian eco-regions. The leaves of this thorny bush are more commonly used in cooking, than the rough bumpy fruit and utilised in countries all over Indonesia and SE Asia.
Fresh or dried, the aroma of these distinctive 'double' leaves is intoxicating.
The dried berries of the Peruvian pepper tree, these lovely little things were actually banned in the U.S.A in 1982. The ban was later lifted and rightly so. These delicious dried berries (not actually peppercorns) have a sweet spice flavour.
Szechuan Flower Pepper
There are many species of this delightful plant used in many parts of China and Japan and countries in Africa. Coming from a tall spiky bush, these berries (again, not a pepper corn) are used in provincial Chinese cooking and are a key ingredient in Chinese five spice powder. The part of the berry used is in fact the outer husk of the ripened fruit. A sought after spice that creates a numbing sensation amongst a complex mix or flavours in the mouth.
A rhizome of plants in the ginger family, used for culinary and medicinal purposes originating in Indonesia. Much stronger and spicier than ginger, it would be a mistake to substitute it for such. The flavour is quite different and the spice element enough to rival some chillies.
Distillation and infusion of gin (and indeed any infused spirit) can happen in two ways. Either by tea-bagging (no, not that tea-bagging!!), where a pouch of the spices is boiled with the distillation, or, the spices are suspended or stuffed into the swan neck of the still and the vapours pass through, flavouring the alcohol.
The latter method is a far superior way to obtain clean and delicate aromas and flavours.
This posed an interesting challenge for Gerd, whose swan neck was not so large and so he set about construction a meshed platform inside the still to lay the spice out on. Turns out that a couple of shelves from an old fridge will do just fine!
Four distillates were distilled from the lees of 'The Spectre' Riesling on 4th January 2014.
As the distillation progresses, the quality and alcohol level slowly reduce. The first fraction of about 20litres came off at 89% and was smooth and intense with the spice flavours. The other three fractions came off at 74%, 62% and 53%, with flavour profiles gradually turning from fresh hay into almost silage aromas. A really interesting process, I'm sure you'll agree.
Birds&Bats (mostly Bats) set about blending these four fractions to find if any combination of these alcohols would result in more interesting flavour. It transpired that no, the original distillate was the superior alcohol on its own, than in combination with any of the other three, so B+B decided to opt for quality over quantity (of course!).
So there we have it. Wines of Momentary Destination gin 'The Spectre's Ashes'. Named so, because it is made from the dead yeast that produced the 2013 W.M.D. 'The Spectre' Riesling.
Included with the bottle is a little pouch that contains the actual spices used when distilling the gin, 'The Spectre's Ashes'.
*disclaimer: The pouch of 'ashes' is not designed to be added to the gin. Do not add to the gin!